Social activist and attorney-at-law Robert Bobby Clarke is suggesting that former Prime Minister Owen Arthur’s support for sale of the Barbados National Terminal Co Ltd (BNTCL) and the Barbados Hilton, was in effect an indictment of a similar decision he made during his administration.
It was during a forum hosted by the Women and Development Unit of the University of the West Indies at Cave Hill on Wednesday night that the ex-prime minister made the declaration of support for the sale of the state entities.
The recently ousted DLP administration had drawn heavy criticism for attempting to do the same.
In his presentation, Arthur said selling the Hilton and the BNTCL was a better alternative to the taxes implemented under the Mia Mottley administration.
Arthur said he is aware the sale would be an unpopular decision. He mused that he still bore the scars from deciding to sell the Barbados National Bank (BNB) as Minister of Finance. He said, “We sold it and the BNB is worth three times what it was then and employs twice as many people”.
Clarke is contending that Arthur, a leading economist, was admitting to giving away one of the state’s cash cows. He said these companies were paying considerable taxes to the Government before they were sold.
“That is a remarkable admission by Mr Owen Arthur former Prime Minister of Barbados. His comment shows that if the Barbados National Bank had not been sold and had continued being the property and the business of the Barbados Government, the present Government would not have had to go to the IMF [International Monetary Fund] to try to put its finances on a better footing,” said Clarke, in a statement released Friday afternoon.
Clarke said it was that same mentality that pushed Government to sell the Insurance Corporation of Barbados Limited (ICBL), its interest in the (Barbados) Hilton Hotel and its attempt to sell the Barbados National Oil Company.
Clarke said the history of such sales show the monies were never used to improve agriculture and food production which could have reduced Barbados ballooning food bill.
“They were not used to improve the fishing fleet and stop the importation of tinned sardines, herring, tinned salmon, salt fish and fresh fish from Trinidad and Tobago. They were not used to develop more means of production to cut down on imports,” he said.